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InForum 2016: Valuable insights from the miracle workers

What’s the value of information? That was the theme for the 2016 inForum annual international convention for Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia (RIM) held in Perth, Australia, September 11 – 14.

Speakers measured value in a number of ways and the focus of presentations was varied: there were case studies and tips for rethinking recordkeeping in a world of disruptive technologies, thought-provoking examples of information management deficits, and principles for achieving good data and transitioning to digital recordkeeping.

Catherin Cassarchis, State Archivist and Executive Director at the State Records Office Western Australia, opened the conference with a speech on how records retain layers of value, remarking that archives are like the complex prints of the artist Escher, “as you look at them, your perception changes.” Catherin cited the pioneering Perth-Kalgoorlie water pipeline project of engineer C Y O’Connor, completed in 1903, whose legacy was marred by sustained and publicly-recorded personal criticism in the early years of construction.

It’s time the myth that valuable records are only stored in the EDRMS should be dispelled, according to Janet Villata, Information Analyst at the City of Sydney NSW, noting that key corporate records are moving and morphing in their formats and locations. The resounding message was that it is the role of information managers to adapt how they work, be proactive, focus on high risk and high value records and apply EDRMS principles to new environments.

The point of adapting to changing technology and business needs was also raised by Kathryn Chambers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). From a records  environment comprising of an unwieldy 32 individual implementations of TRIM and devolved teams working across Australia, records and information management within the CSIRO was dramatically restructured in 2012. Underpinned by the principle that records services could be provided anytime and anyplace, the changes included implementing a single enterprise records management system, providing a triage mindset for records support and adopting a risk and value-based approach to the management of the organisation’s records.

Recordkeeping Innovation’s own consultants Annette Senior and Wendy Buttel, lead a workshop on practical strategies for transitioning to digital recordkeeping. The interactive session included examples of governance, demonstrations on how a workflow can help embed records into business processes and tools for achieving a fully automatic end-to-end process.

The conference ended on a poignant and unsettling account of how incomplete information and incorrectly interpreted records led to an innocent man being convicted of murder and jailed for eight years. Investigative journalist Colleen Egan detailed her examination of the records and the work of a cold case team to prove the innocence of Andrew Mallard.

As a concluding takeout from the inForum conference, it’s interesting to note that the terms ‘archives, records, content, information, data’ were as interchangeable as the job titles of speakers. Lucky participants, such as Recordkeeping Innovation consultant Morgan Gradwell, took home 2016 conference T-shirts with the job title ‘miracle worker’, which sometimes doesn’t feel too far from the truth.

Highlights from the International Congress on Archives, Seoul

Recently Barbara Reed and I attended the International Congress on Archives in Seoul, Korea. Held every four years, this is something of an ‘archives Olympics’, with thousands of recordkeeping professionals coming together for the week to discuss projects and ideas and make new connections.

Some of the highlights from the Congress included:

ICA Congress Closing Ceremony Image credit: @CassPF

  • hearing about the new Records in Contexts (RiC), standard for archival description developed by the ICA – a new standard that embraces introduces multidimensional description of recordkeeping entities that will be better suited to the complexity of digital records;
  • discussing the role of records and archives in reconciliation efforts across different parts of the world, from Latin America to Iceland;
  • a reprise of the workshop held recently on Sydney on Recordkeeping Informatics by Barbara, with Monash University’s Frank Upward and Gillian Oliver of Victoria University, Wellington; and
  • learning about the needs of new archives professionals from a research project done by the ICA New Professionals – a group of bursary holders who traveled to Seoul from all corners of the globe.